Peter Molyneux semi-officially kicked off proceedings at this year?s GCDC in Leipzig yesterday, giving a keynote presentation to over 400 assembled developers, entitled ?Combat: Time to Evolve? focusing almost entirely on how to improve combat in videogames.
Referencing one of SPOnG?s all-time favourites, Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting, Molyneux somewhat nostalgically called for a return to its simple-to-learn yet deep-to-master combat mechanics. Peter?s suggestions also included ditching hit points, encouraging more elaborate one-hit kills, and allowing characters to make more interesting use of their surrounding environments.
Overall, he was urging developers to look towards highly stylised/dramatised combat in classic movies for inspiration, instead of real-life, comparing Kill-Bill footage with a video of a real-life-roleplaying fight and exclaiming that: "Real-life combat is rubbish."
Well yes, of course it is, especially if you are dressed up in a tight velour elf costume wielding a rubber sword.
Molyneux next moved onto the role of environments, pointing out that movie fights rarely take place in flat arenas, using the example of the well-known spiral staircase fight scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to illustrate his point. The range and type of moves available to players should be determined by the space available to them within the game, as well as the various interactive objects and environments surrounding the player.
All fairly common-sensical stuff you might be thinking, in retrospect. The fact is that games developers do need to be educated about how to dramatise
combat in better, more accessible ways, which essentially is the main gist of Peter?s argument.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the presentation was the QA session afterwards, where Peter was asked how these ideas might be implemented into games making use of the Wii?s motion-sensing controller, eliciting the response: "If you wanted to make a big difference, where's the best place to make that difference? I think the controller is definitely it. There's no doubt in my mind that controllers are changing, and they're changing really fast."
However, laconic as ever, Peter has his reservations about Wii it seems, telling the audience: "I'm an incredibly lazy person when I play games, and actually slouching back on the sofa, playing on my beer belly, is my most comfortable position. When I have to get up, it's painful. I make noises and start grunting."
Yay! A lazy developer who tells the truth about how most people actually play videogames - slumped on the sofa with dribble coming out our mouths, through intense concentration on the virtual fantasy worlds beyond the screen.
Peter went on to urge developers to look for a "creative medium [with motion-sensing]?It's not turning a controller into a sword... You cannot do it for 20 hours.?
To be fair, SPOnG doubts that there are many developers who will be creating a Wii game which involved a 20 hour long sword fight element, as that would clearly be commercial suicide (Sega's infamous Desert Bus game
springs to mind here!), but Molyneux's point about using the Wii controller is a valid one.
Let's be clear though. This is hardly, as many sites seem to have reported, Molyneux 'knocking' the Wii. We might refer to the tendency he alludes to as 'new controller fetishism' - the inclination for developers and gamers alike to become overly excited about the possibilities of a new controller (this, of course reaching its zenith of late with the Wii) at the expense of thinking about how to incorporate new methods of control into tried-and-tested game designs that work.
Twilight Princess, in this regard, is of course going to be the first great 'test' of the Wii - to see if it can do the business and deliver the sublime Zelda experience we, and the Nintendo faithful worldwide, are praying it can.